Jewish World Review June 4, 2003 / 4 Sivan, 5763

Zev Chafets

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Iran is next: Bush must tell Americans the Big Truth about ayatollahs | The Bush administration is gearing up for the next battle in the war against the Islamic axis.

This shouldn't come as a surprise. The President has repeatedly said that Iraq - and before it, Afghanistan - are merely theaters in the same unfinished war.

Until now, the big question has been: Who's next? The two obvious candidates are Iraq's two anti-American neighbors: fundamentalist Iran to the east, Baathist Syria to the west.

Judging from the leaks and counterleaks coming out of Washington, it sounds like the administration is edging closer to a No. 1 draft pick: Iran.

It's a good choice. Iran is a bigger, richer, more influential country than Syria. It is at once a font of Islamic anti-Americanism and a hands-on sponsor of terrorism. Bring down the regime in Tehran and you:

Consolidate the U.S. hold over Iraq and the Persian Gulf and bolster American control in Afghanistan.

Stop the Iranian nuclear program before it turns into a real threat.

Orphan Hezbollah, the Iranian protégé that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage calls the "A-Team" of international terror.

Let the air out of the tires of the Islamic revolution that still inspires radicals throughout the Middle East.

Settle old scores going back to the 1979 hostage crisis and the Iranian-ordered bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983.

Anti-Americans around the world are unsympathetic to these goals. They see Tehran as a legitimate regime, deserving of the same respectful treatment as, say, Denmark.

Few American doves go that far. Instead, they argue that whatever its faults, the Iranian theocracy is so unpopular at home that it will fall on its own.

The administration doesn't share this wishful thinking. It appears to be divided between officials who advocate covert action to support an internal revolution and officials who want the action to be as overt as it needs to be to get the job done.

Either way, the case being made in Washington sounds a lot like the case the administration put forward as a rationale for taking on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Iran is now being portrayed as an aggressive, America-hating dictatorship that seeks weapons of mass destruction and closely cooperates with Al Qaeda terrorists.

This presents a certain marketing problem. The charges against Iraq are unproven, perhaps unprovable. President Bush, in his zeal to move the country, apparently (the jury's still out, but restive) submitted phony evidence.

In a court of law, that gets your verdict overturned. But foreign policy isn't jurisprudence. Most Americans don't seem to blame Bush for trumping up charges against Saddam because what the President said was, in essence, the truth. Saddam was a cruel and aggressive dictator. He did at various times have and use missiles and chemical warheads. He had tried to create a nuclear program. He did serve as a paymaster of suicide bombers and host to internationally wanted terrorists. He clearly was an enemy of the United States and a potential danger.

In other words, Bush got the big picture right. But he hurt his own credibility in the process. People are less likely to believe him this time when he asserts a strong connection between Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and terror mastermind Osama Bin Laden, or sends Secretary of State Powell to the United Nations with pictures of Iranian installations of weapons of mass destruction.

To make his case this time, the President needs to do what he didn't do on Iraq: Tell the Big Truth. The Big Truth is that Iran is ruled by a junta of crazed Islamic fanatics (Tehran's "elected government" is a fiction). The mission statement of the Islamic republic is to defeat Satan, whose great embodiment is the United States.

The Big Truth is that Iran has a nuclear program (unlike in Iraq, we know exactly where it is). The ayatollahs say they want nukes for energy, which is what Third World dictators always say. Betting American security on the veracity and good will of these guys is crazy. Worse, it is irresponsible.

The Big Truth is that Iran is a terrorist state. Does it harbor Al Qaeda? Probably - whatever their sectarian differences, the Iranians and Al Qaeda are families in the same jihadist Mafia. But proving the Khamenei-Bin Laden connection is unnecessary to link Iran with international terrorism. All you need is the proudly proclaimed tie between the ayatollahs and Hezbollah.

The Big Truth is that the U.S. is in the midst of a war to protect not only the homeland but also its considerable Middle Eastern interests: the flow of cheap oil, the security of Israel and pro-American Arab governments, the spreading of democracy and free markets and the permanence of the victories in Iraq and Afghanistan. Quitting now would put the U.S. back to Sept. 10, 2001.

The biggest Big Truth is that, in this war, the enemy isn't this dictator or that nation. It is radical, anti-American Islam in its various states and guises. Bush's fear of saying so out loud forced him to tell a lot of little white lies about Iraq. That's no way to fight for a just cause.

As the next battle approaches, Bush should stick to the Big Truth. The public can handle it. Fact is, most people - on both sides of the battle line - have already figured it out for themselves.

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JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

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04/01/03: War's happy troubadours
03/27/03: What's not going on is the key in this war
03/20/03: The big question: Can Arabs handle liberty?
03/17/03: In war, like in baseball, the idea is to make the other guy cry --- now, let's go get 'em!
03/13/03: Jewish plot? This pol has gone punchy
03/11/03: Prez is ready to finish off the Security Council, too
03/04/03: Those human shields need some star power
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01/07/03: Senator from Mayberry shouldn't alarm prez
12/31/02: Dem Dummies
12/19/02: Saudis still play Santa to Arafat
12/13/02: Lott has to be dumped to save W's authority
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11/25/02: Sharon looks like a winner
11/18/02: It's the war, stupid
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11/07/02: Watch for Dubya to give Arik political hug
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10/22/02: Rabin, gone but not missed
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07/31/02: Israel's nutty neighbors

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